UNHCR steps up repatriation from Liberia to Côte d'Ivoire

News Stories, 9 December 2011

© UNHCR/S.Momodu
Buses taking Ivorian refugees back home from Liberia.

TOE TOWN, Liberia, December 9 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency is stepping up its voluntary repatriation operation for refugees from Côte d'Ivoire living in Liberia. On Thursday, UNHCR repatriated a group of 546 Ivorian refugees who had been living in the counties of Nimba and Grand Gedeh.

The repatriation convoy carried more people than the combined total of the past three convoys of an exercise launched in October to take back people. The refugees had fled the violence that erupted after the disputed presidential election of November last year. UNHCR is planning return convoys every Tuesday and Thursday as more refugees are signing up to be helped home.

UNHCR and its partners used trucks, buses, cars and ambulances to take the returnees to Côte d'Ivoire via the Toe Town transit centre on the Liberian side of the border between the two countries. Here they were given bread, sardines, high energy protein biscuits and water. They also receive blankets, mats and jerry cans.

"The momentum to return is on and we will continue to assist them to do so," later said UNHCR Senior Protection Officer Fatima Mohammed as the convoy moved into Côte d' Ivoire, the refugees waving goodbye.

The main return areas for the refugees were the towns of Toulepleu and Danane in western Côte d'Ivoire. Refugees from previous convoys mostly returned to Blolequin, Toulepleu, Doukoue and Guiglo, other towns in the west that experienced heavy fighting at the height of the Ivorian crisis.

Some say they are returning because the war is over and there is now peace in their home areas. Others say they need to go back to study, cultivate their fields, find work or reunite with relatives after becoming separated during the violence.

"I am a high school student. I am returning home because I want to go back to school," said 20-year-old Daple, who has two children of her own. Kui-Zoto said he wanted to go back to resume his unusual career. "I was a comedian at the Toulepleu radio station. I am returning to continue with my comedy work."

Ivorian refugees in Togo are also beginning to return. On December 1, UNHCR arranged a first convoy of 47 refugees from the more than 600 who signed up for repatriation.

Just over a year after the presidential election that sparked the six months of violence, some 96,000 Ivorian refugees have returned from Liberia. Others would like to go back, but are waiting to see what happens after legislative elections due on Sunday in Côte d'Ivoire.

UNHCR welcomes the momentum in repatriation as it is an indication of improved security in Côte d' Ivoire. In August, the governments of Liberia, Côte d' Ivoire and UNHCR signed an agreement to help refugees who want to repatriate. UNHCR signed similar agreements with Ghana, Guinea and Togo.

There are still some 170,000 Ivorian refugees in West Africa. The majority of them are in Liberia (138,164), Ghana (15,948), Togo (5,110) and Guinea (2,480.)

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UNHCR country pages

Repatriation

UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

Returnees in Myanmar

During the early 1990s, more than 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fled across the border into Bangladesh, citing human rights abuses by Myanmar's military government. In exile, refugees received shelter and assistance in 20 camps in the Cox's Bazaar region of Bangladesh. More than 230,000 of the Rohingya Muslims have returned since 1992, but about 22,000 still live in camps in Bangladesh. To promote stability in returnee communities in Myanmar and to help this group of re-integrate into their country, UNHCR and its partner agencies provide monitors to insure the protection and safety of the returnees as well as vocational training, income generation schemes, adult literacy programs and primary education.

Returnees in Myanmar

Liberia: Return, Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

Colombia's armed conflict has forced millions of people to flee their homes, including hundreds of thousands who have sought refuge in other countries in the region.

Along the border with Colombia, Panama's Darien region is a thick and inhospitable jungle accessible only by boat. Yet many Colombians have taken refuge here after fleeing the irregular armed groups who control large parts of jungle territory on the other side of the border.

Many of the families sheltering in the Darien are from Colombia's ethnic minorities – indigenous or Afro-Colombians – who have been particularly badly hit by the conflict and forcibly displaced in large numbers. In recent years, there has also been an increase in the numbers of Colombians arriving in the capital, Panama City.

There are an estimated 12,500 Colombians of concern to UNHCR in Panama, but many prefer not to make themselves known to authorities and remain in hiding. This "hidden population" is one of the biggest challenges facing UNHCR not only in Panama but also in Ecuador and Venezuela.

Liberia: Return, Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

Sierra Leone: Last Return Convoy from Liberia

On July 21, 2004, the final UNHCR convoy from Liberia crossed over the Mano River bridge into Sierra Leone with 286 returnees. This convoy included the last of some 280,000 refugees returning home after Sierra Leone's brutal 10-year civil war which ended in 2000. Overall, since repatriation began in 2001, UNHCR has helped some 178,000 refugees return home, with a further 92,000 returning spontaneously, without transport assistance from UNHCR.

UNHCR provided returnees with food rations and various non-food items, including jerry cans, blankets, sleeping mats, soap and agricultural tools in order to help them establish their new lives in communities of origin. To promote integration of newly arrived returnees, UNHCR has implemented some 1,000 community empowerment projects nationwide. Programmes include the building and rehabilitation of schools, clinics, water and sanitation facilities, as well as micro-credit schemes and skills training.

UNHCR and its partners, alongside the UN country team and the government, will continue to assist the reintegration of returnees through the end of 2005.

Sierra Leone: Last Return Convoy from Liberia

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